FX is renewing three of its comedy series: Wilfred, Louie and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia are all coming back.
That marks a second season for Wilfred and a third for Louie. And Sunny is getting two more seasons, a whopping eighth and ninth, making it the longest-running comedy series in basic-cable history.
FX president John Landgraf pointed out that Sunny helped pioneer a low-cost / high-creative-freedom business model that it’s used for its other comedies as well. (He also talked about superhero drama Powers, Sons of Anarchy, and cancelling Lights Out and Terriers, but we’ll get to that below.)
“They literally had no experience writing, no experience directing,” says Landgraf of the Sunny team. “They literally made a pilot for $200 they shot in their back yard. They were so young and so willing to learn and we didn’t bring in showrunners over them. It was a good partnership. It started out so bare bones – [creator-actor] Rob McElhenney was a waiter and didn’t quit his job until season two.”
Landgraf says he looked to see if the Sunny team was getting burned out, but noted this upcoming season has the group “trying different stories on Sunny that seem to be working.”
The executive also talked about his superhero cop project Powers. Though Landgraf hasn’t yet picked the show up to series, he sounded optimistic about the possibility. He described the series as “a very gritty cop show” and compared it to the movie Seven.
“We saw possibility to do an interesting take on a cop show; once you have The Shield on the air, it’s really tough to top that. You’ll notice we haven’t put a cop show on the air since then,” he said. “But we look for if there is a story we can tell for seven seasons.”
Landgraf noted that superheros have been all the rage in theaters, and TV attempts at the genre have been relatively lighthearted.
“It’s virtually impossible to make a mob movie better than The Godfather Part 1 or 2, but you can make a TV series that’s as good,” he said, presumably referring to The Sopranos. “So maybe the superhero genre is ripe for innovation.”
On the subject of Sons of Anarchy, Landgraf admitted to being a bit nervous last season as the show expanded its story to Ireland in a season that divided fans, but he said he always had confidence in showrunner Kurt Sutter.
“I didn’t say anything to Kurt about, ‘Please bring things back to basics,’ that was always his plan,” Landgraf said. “If we clamp down on our showrunners and say ‘we are the arbitrators of what the audience wants,’ we’re going to miss out on some tremendous experiments.”
During the Sons panel, star Ron Perlman said the club will emerge from prison after 14 months in the show’s upcoming fourth season premiere. The SOA will find Charming a changed town, partly due to a new mayor scapegoating the Club for all of the town’s problems.
As for some of the shows Landgraf has canceled this year, he pointed to his upcoming Ryan Murphy project American Horror Story (whose panel is coming up in a few minutes, so look for a separate post on that).
“If I hadn’t canceled Lights Out and Terriers, American Horror Story wouldn’t exist,” he said. “I can’t have an infinite portfolio of shows.”